Ohio University amid Pandemic

A student walks across an empty College Green. Photo by Ben Peters.

In an effort to attract prospective students to Ohio University as it grapples with financial tribulations attributed to declining enrollment that have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, the institution on Tuesday announced amended admissions policies that are far more generous than in years past.

The new guidelines, dubbed the OHIO Admission Promise, guarantees admission to fall 2021 Athens campus applicants who earn a minimum 3.0 grade point average in high school, apply to the university by the Jan. 15 deadline and enroll as a full-time, first-year student.

Application fees for those prospective students will be waived, according to a news release from the university.

Athens campus freshmen whose federal financial aid results are acquired by the university by Jan. 15 will also receive a $2,000 reward.

“The high school graduating class of 2021 will have persevered through one of the most uncertain and challenging seasons in the history of education,” OU President Duane Nellis said in a statement.

“Through the OHIO Admission Promise, we want to provide some peace of mind to prospective students and their families as they consider college plans. We want to encourage them to continue to prioritize pursuit of a high-quality education, despite these most trying times,” Nellis said.

The pandemic has forced some college students and incoming freshmen into tight economic binds, forcing them either postpone attending a university or cancel their higher education plans all together.

Others took gap years for fear of contracting the virus or in opposition to online classes.

The numbers of incoming freshmen at the Athens campus, which has steadily declined since 2016, further declined this fall relative to last year, partially because of COVID-19-related consequences.

The university in recent months also outlined bleak financial projections that show it expects to incur nearly $300 million in losses in the coming years, even after laying off hundreds of employees and mandating furloughs.

One of the university’s largest sources of revenue is student housing fees, which are required for the vast majority of first and second-year students who must live in dorms.

Earlier this year, OU joined other schools in a nationwide trend to no longer require incoming students to submit standardized test scores when they apply to the Athens campus, which marked another significant change to the university’s admissions process as it attempted to even the playing field for prospective students.

The change was originally made temporarily in response to the COVID-19 pandemic impeding students’ ability to take standardized tests, but the option was made permanent.

Students who apply to the university, however, can still choose to submit both ACT and SAT scores for additional consideration, but opting to do so will not negatively impact their chances of admission.

Those who do not submit test scores would also still be eligible for university benefits like scholarships.

Critics of standardized tests argue that they create barriers to higher education for those who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and lack the resources to adequately prepare for the exams.

Both the ACT and SAT are not necessarily indicators of students’ success at OU, but more accurately reflect their socioeconomic background, OU Provost Elizabeth Sayrs said at a Board of Trustees meeting this past summer. a student’s high school GPA, rather than standardized test scores, is a more accurate indicator of their likelihood to graduate.

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